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Judy Isacoff
Facing west toward the sun as its last rays lit the winterberry before setting behind a high ridge. Nov. 28, 2017, 4:18 p.m. Sunset: 4:24 p.m.

NATURE’S TURN: Winterberry and wild birds at the turn of the year

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By Monday, Dec 18, 2017 Farm and Table

December 18 – 31, 2017

Mount Washington — Winterberry shrubs are scarlet lures scattered along rural byways. After autumn leaves drop and underbrush turns tawny, Ilex verticillata stand out, brilliant red-berried small trees and multi-stemmed drifts in gardens and in shrubby, wet landscapes. This year, a peculiar magnetism originates from the winterberry in my garden. A volunteer that has grown from a wild berry into a circa-10-year-old specimen, this Ilex, a deciduous holly, has awakened me to many in the environs of my garden and throughout the region.

Facing west at dusk. Dec. 11, 2017, 5:39 p.m. Sunset: 4:21 p.m. Nautical twilight: 5:28 p.m. Photo: Judy Isacoff

A month ago the robust, round plant a few inches taller than I shed its green leaves – a sort of undergarment – revealing a body left clothed in densely packed scarlet berries. The character of this individual has captivated me; it is a living being so strong that it seems to be insisting on deepening a relationship with me. “Take my picture!”, comes the command. “I see how beautiful you are,“ I reply. A few days later, holly urges, “Stop what you are doing and come quickly: The last rays of sunlight are shining on my berries. I’m glistening!”

Facing west. Dec. 13, 2017, 11:47 a.m. Sunrise: 7:13 a.m. Temperature: 12 degrees F. Photo: Judy Isacoff

These hotheaded red ones, females, draw us in for a closer look. I have only seen a male winterberry when I purchased one from a nursery as a mate for a female for a landscaping job. Let’s take our plant-finder key and go out to meet the secretive fellows.

Nuthatch, winterberry bush, hemlock, amaryllis. Dec. 13, 2017, 12:37 p.m. Photo: Judy Isacoff

New Year’s Eve and New Years Day with the birds, for the birds

Dec. 31, 2017: Moonlight Owl and Wildlife Prowl at Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, Lenox. From Becky Cushing: “Enjoy a moonlit winter evening at Pleasant Valley to listen and watch for owls and other nocturnal wildlife. We’ll explore fields, forests, and wetlands and learn about animal adaptations for hunting at night. We’ll warm up with tea and hot cocoa after the walk.” https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/pleasant-valley

Jan. 1, 2018: Southern Berkshire Christmas Bird Count. From Rene Wendell: “What better way to ring in the New Year than to go birding! This is the Southern Berkshire Christmas Bird Count, its 26th year. We are always looking for new people to join a team. The leaders this year are Rene Wendell and Jonathan Pierce. If you are interested in joining, send an email to both of us.”


What is the Christmas Bird Count? –  https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

Winterberry as bird feeder – https://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-pileated-woodpecker-in-the-winterberry-bush-drought-update/

Birds – inspiring publications –  https://cornelllabpublishinggroup.com/?v=7516fd43adaa

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